The Indian hockey team’s campaign at the Women’s FIH Pro League 2023-24 got off to a disappointing start after losing 2-1 to the People’s Republic of China at the Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar on Saturday.
Goals from Wen Dan (40′) and Bingfeng Gu (52′) ensured China registered their first win against India at the FIH Hockey Pro League. Returning vice captain Vanadana Katariya‘s 15th minute goal came only as a consolation for the Indian women’s hockey team.
The Chinese defense did well to deny any room or penalty corners to the hosts. On the other hand, the Indian backline struggled, conceding 11 penalty corners.
Nevertheless, it was India who took the lead. With 10 seconds left in the first quarter, Lalremsiami’s long cross from the right pierced through the Chinese backline. Vandana Katariya, inside the circle, lunged forward to get enough deflection for the ball to hit the net.
China had their fair share of chances and finally broke through in the 40th minute. Jiaqi Zhong released a ball for unmarked Wen Dan inside the circle who scrambled and managed to lift it high enough over Indian goalkeeper Savita Punia for the equaliser.
China enjoyed more possession of the ball and managed more circle penetrations, but failed to capitalize on the field goal opportunities.
The Indian defense that had worked tirelessly in the first three quarters looked distraught in the fourth.
Nine of 11 penalty corners for China came in the fourth quarter and five of them were on the trot. It was on the fifth of the sequence that a direct attempt from Ying Zhang ricocheted off Savita Punia’s pads for Bingfeng Gu to slap it into the net.
The Chinese team, now in the lead, traded passes cautiously for a historic win and three points from their first match of the 2023-24 FIH Pro League.
India’s Salima Tete played her 100th international match on the evening.
The first time the two teams met at the FIH Hockey Pro League was in 2021-22, Indian women decimated them 2-1 and 7-1 at the Sultan Qaboos Complex, Muscat, Oman.
The Indian women’s hockey team takes on the Netherlands in their second match at the same venue today.